Now we’re getting pretty much stuck into the 21st century, how do we make sure we’re really embracing this very digital world we live in? We have a choice to grasp the opportunity that being a digital nation can bring us or choose to remain a digitally divided nation – and I think the choice is a pretty clear one
Digital exclusion = poverty, lack of opportunity, inefficiencies, under employment, health inequalities, isolation, no-go communities, and people left behind.
Digital growth = high employment, world class skills, top notch services, prevention of poor health and crime through use of data, successful businesses, good education, well-being and happiness.
Which one would you choose?
The world of digital inclusion has been through quite a lot of iterations and I’m delighted with recent additions, such as Martha Lane Fox’s new charity and our close partner, Go ON UK, and most recently the Government Digital Service’s new Digital Inclusion Team. While we’ve achieved a huge amount, I’m not particularly interested in looking back at where we were. What I am interested in is learning from what’s worked, and in analysing who still needs support and inspiration.
Since I live and breathe the key stats and facts about digital inclusion, I thought it would be helpful to collect them in one place. What started as a scribble in a notebook is now a beautiful infographic – so you can literally get the digital nation picture – which brings together the killer facts and stats we need to know and that clever organisations like Ofcom, ONS, Oxford Internet Institute, the BBC, and others, collect regularly.
Our new infographic tells of the divided world – the 36 million on the sunny side of the divide, as well as the 11 million still in the digital dark. We don’t just know about who lives on the two sides of this divide but also about what the digitally included do online, and what the benefits are in both personal and economic terms.
What’s really frustrating is that we do know what works. In the centre of our infographic is a tree of inspiration which has eight ‘leaves’ which cover how to do digital inclusion. They include outreach – helping people where they live work and play, hyper-local delivery in informal community spaces, local marketing, one-to-one support from volunteers and tutors, partnerships with trusted intermediaries to reach the hardest to reach, free, flexible access, and bite-sized, self-directed learning. No matter who I talk to about their programmes and schemes, these eight elements appear in some guise or another.
So having gathered these stats and facts together, and created that tree of inspiration, the next obvious question is “So what?” I’m keen that we actually use our collective knowledge to drive action, and I thought I’d give a view of what I think should happen next. Basically we don’t need more data on the who or where; we need data on the what works and how to have the biggest impact.
So let’s start here. Do we need more evidence? Yes – definitely. There are lots of isolated projects that appear to do good things, but we’re not systematically collecting the evidence about what’s working or why. To become a digital nation, do we just need to do more of the practice we already know works? On one level, I think we do. I need more. But, I also think we should get cleverer too.
It’s not just helping people to use digital, but using digital to help people. That’s about better use of data to provide personalised online learning that works for each individual. It’s about sharing data through APIs and using open source practices, embedding each other’s learning content, and working on platforms for co-creation to involve the learners in defining content and helping to produce it.
We also need to get cleverer about partnerships. We need to work together to amplify, scale and share the pockets of good practice. And to help us spread the word we need the ears of leaders in big and small businesses, local government, central government, innovative technology companies, social housing providers, further education colleges, libraries, think tanks, community organisations, Foundations and philanthropists.
More interest in a ‘cause’ doesn’t necessarily mean more action – it could just mean more talking, and that’s what we need to avoid. So let’s start here, from this evidence, from this picture. Let’s work out how we can get to be the most digital skilled nation in the world, how much that will cost, and just get on with it. Picture that.
Thank you to Alyson Rhodes at The Art Department for the inspiring design and getting it all down on paper for us.